Hassani held his head high and smiled, telling an interviewer that his dream came true the moment he set foot on stage.
Rabat – The 19-year-old singer of Moroccan origin, Bilal Hassani, placed 14th while representing France at the 64th edition of the international singing competition, Eurovision, on May 18.
Hassani, who chose to perform his original song “Roi” (King), expressed no disappointment at placing 14th, telling a backstage interviewer that his dream was already realized by simply competing in the competition.
“I’m just too happy, my dream came true when I set foot on stage to start singing “King,” and the rest was a bonus, 14th is very, very good.” he said.
“I said it from the beginning, my interest was following this adventure, to participate in Eurovision and to do this performance in particular, to present this piece, to really send an honest message to people that they can be what they want to be, and that they can live as who they are,” Bilani continued.
Born in Paris to Moroccan parents, Hassani began singing as a child and competed on “The Voice Kids” in 2015. As a teenager, Hassani began creating his songs and posting them to his growing following on social media.
Hassani is openly gay and has a gender-neutral style, and much of his music explores his experiences in LGBTQ community. His song King, which he performed for Eurovision, has over 7 million views on his Youtube channel, which has over 1 million subscribers. The song is an anthem for self-acceptance and being true to oneself.
Although Hassani realized his dream of performing at Eurovision, the 19-year-old faced discrimination along the way. In January, Hassani lodged a lawsuit against unnamed defendants for “insults, incitement to hatred and violence and homophobic threats.” The organization Stop Homophobia supported the lawsuit.
Hassani’s lawyer says that the singer has been targeted by over 1,500 homophobic tweets and has also received death threats.
The competition was won by another LGBTQ member, Dutch representative Duncan Laurence. The bisexual singer used the moment to send a message in support of the LGBT community, saying people should be seen for who they are irrespective of their sexuality.
Many chose to boycott the event
Eurovision has been marred by controversy and protests this year due to their choice of Israel as a host country, with many public figures calling for a boycott of the event. Icelandic group Hatari raised Palestinian flags during their appearance at the competition in Israel, causing audible gasps.
Pop icon Madonna made a similar gesture during her performance at the event, with a Palestinian flag being featured on the back of her backing dancer’s costumes, alongside the Israeli flag on the back of another dancer as the two walked off stage arm-in-arm.
Palestinian Campaign For The Academic And Cultural Boycott Of Israel (PACBI) released a statement in response to the gestures, saying the most meaningful thing the performers could have done is boycott the event completely and the gesture “cannot offset the harm they do to our human rights struggle by balancing their complicit act with some project with the Palestinians.”